Machine-readable passport project goes to army

May 20, 2009

The government is going to entrust the army with the much-discussed machine-readable passport and visa project that would cost nearly Tk 283 crore.
The home affairs ministry took the move following directives from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for engaging the army in implementing the project which was originally initiated in 2004 by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance government.
Citing the performance of army in preparation of voters’ list and issuance of national identity cards, home affairs minister Sahara Khatun said Monday that the government has decided to give the responsibility for introducing the machine-readable passport and visa to army.
‘We have decided to give army the task for implementing the machine-readable passport and visa project as they have already proved their competence in preparing the voters’ roll and national identity cards during the tenure of the caretaker government,’ Sahara Khatun told reporters after presiding over an inter-ministerial meeting on the project.
She said a project director would be appointed soon from the army and the work should start as soon as possible.
A technical team from the army has already made a presentation on the proposed MRP, Shahara said, adding ‘We have asked for submitting samples of MRP in four colours—red, black, green and yellow—for the ministry’s approval.’
The five-year project is expected to get underway in July 2009 and scheduled to be concluded by June 2014.
Finance minister AMA Muhith, who also attended the meeting held at the home affairs ministry, proposed for setting up a link between the national identity cards’ database and the MRP project to check fraudulence.
‘The national ID cards must be made mandatory for issuance of passports. If needed, the government will enact or amend laws to this effect,’ Muhith said when his attention was drawn to the fact that the already-issued national ID cards were yet have any legal coverage due to non-existence of any national identity registration authority.
The project was included in the annual development programme for the fiscal 2008-09 against a proposal of the home affairs ministry with a target for introducing the machine-readable passport and visa from July 2009, according to officials.
Bangladesh, being a signatory to the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a specialized UN agency responsible for coordinating and regulating international air travel, must introduce the digital system by 2010 and convert all manually-issued passports into the machine-readable ones by November 2015, said an official concerned.
The department of immigration and passports has so far issued some 1.2 crore passports, all of which are hand-written.
MRP passports will have all data encoded in optical character which can be read by the computers.
It will be mandatory for Bangladeshis to take electronic passport by 2014, to be introduced in line with the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organisation to digitally connect all member countries to end passport forgery.
Asked why the government was not going for electronic passport, the Department of Immigration and Passports director general, Abdur Rab Hawlader, said there was still a chance for moving to e-passport. Moreover, the MRP could be upgraded anytime to electronic system, he told New Age.

Courtesy of NewAgebd

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